The Ultimate Guide To Skincare Boosters

by Gio

guide to skincare boosters

Whenever I think I’ve got my skincare routine all figured out, my skin goes and throws me a curveball.

Take last winter. When the first gusts of freezing winds hit my skin, they suck all the moisture out of it. My skin flaked like crazy. And got so sensitive, even my trusted holy grails irritated it.

Or that time of the month. My hormones are all over the place and never fail to give me a pimple or two.

And so, the search for new skincare products that can deal with these new issues starts all over again…

It’s terribly frustrating, isn’t it? That’s why I was so excited about skincare boosters when they started making their appearance last year.

Word has it, they help you customize your skincare routine to deal with this kind of emergencies. I had to give them a go and see what all the fuss is about.

What’s the deal with skincare boosters? Do they work or are they just another creative way for skincare brands to steal our hard earned money?

What The Heck Are Skincare Boosters?

Skincare boosters are highly concentrated concoctions that target one specific skincare woe. There are boosters to add extra moisture to the skin, boosters to get rid of dark spots, boosters to deal with wrinkles…

The whole idea here is that your skin changes all the time. It can get drier in winter, oilier in summer, get pimples when you’re on your period, develop wrinkles as you get older…

A booster is there to supercharge your skincare routine, creating just the right concoction your skin needs at any particular moment.

indeed labs hydration booster

How Are Skincare Boosters Different From Serums?

Serums and boosters are close cousins. They both contain high concentrations of active ingredients, but a lot less (if any!) thickeners, emulsifiers, and all that other stuff that gives moisturizers their richer textures.

But boosters are even more concentrated than serums, so they work that little bit faster. 

If you’ve found a serum that works wonders for you, there’s no need to get a booster too. A booster is for those times when your skin needs that little bit of extra help your usual skincare routine can’t give it.

What Are The Pros Of Using A Booster?

  1. DIY skincare: you can easily create your own DIY skincare products and transform you fave moisturizer into a super powerful anti-aging or anti-blemishes weapon.
  2. Bespoke daily skincare: you get to choose the strength of the treatment every time you use it. The more drops you use, the more powerful it is.
  3. An extra helping hand: thanks to their high concentration of active ingredients, they’ll help you fix any new skin woe faster than other skincare products.
Skincare boosters are highly concentrated formulas you can use to customize your skincare.Click to Tweet

What Are The Cons Of Using A Booster?

  1. Diluted efficacy: when you mix your skincare booster with any other skincare products, you dilute it. That means, it’ll take longer to work.
  2. Expensive: they usually come in smaller bottles and tubes that are priced almost as much as or even more than full-size serums and moisturizers.

paula's choice 10% niacinamide booster 01

How Are You Supposed To Use A Skincare Booster?

If you’ve decided you need a booster after all, here’s what you need to know to work it into your skincare routine:

  • You can use a booster alone or mix it with your fave serum or moisturizer (never with sunscreen – you’ll just dilute the SPF!).
  • If you want to mix it with another product, pour a small amount on your hand and add one or two drops of booster (the more drops you’ll use, the more powerful – and potentially irritating – the concoction you’re making is).
  • The sooner you apply the booster, the better. For best results, pat it on after exfoliant or toner but always before serum.
  • Most boosters can be used both morning and night. The exceptions? Vitamin C and retinol. High doses can irritate skin if it’s not used to them, so use them only every other night.

What Are The Best Skincare Boosters?

Ready to invest in a skincare booster? Here are my fave for every skin concern:

Best For Brightening Skin: Clinique Fresh Pressed Daily Booster with Pure Vitamin C 10% ($76.50)

The packaging is a pain to use (Clinique had to provide instruction for it!) but the juice inside is loaded with 10% Ascorbic Acids, the pure form of vitamin C. It’s a powerful anti-aging superstar that brightens dull skin, reduces dark spots, boosts collagen production, and even prevents wrinkles. Plus, it’s also loaded with other antioxidants to help you keep those pesky wrinkles away for longer. Did I mention it mixed well with moisturisers?

Available at: Feel UniqueSephora and Ulta

Related: Why You Should Add Vitamin C To Your Skincare Routine

Best For Dry Skin: Dr Dennis Gross Clinic Concentration Hydration Booster ($68.00)

When your skin needs some extra moisture, there’s only one guy to turn to: hyaluronic acid (and its close cousin sodium hyaluronate – they’re pretty much the same thing). This guy can attract, and bind, to the skin up to 1000 times its weight in water. Your skin can’t get more moisture than that! What sets this serum apart is the addition of skin-repairing ceramides, soothing evening primrose extract and a bunch of wrinkle-preventing antioxidants. Dr Gross has really thought of everything!

Available at: Cult BeautySephora and SpaceNK.

Related: Dry Skin? Here’s Why You Should Use Hyaluronic Acid

Best For Treating Sun Damage: Paula’s Choice Resist 1% Retinol Booster ($52.00)

This serum has one of the highest concentrations of retinol you’ll find OTC. Yep, retinol is so powerful, even a 1% concentration packs a punch. So, what does it do? It accelerates cellular turnover and boosts collagen production, two things that help get rid of wrinkles. It also reduces dark spots and treats acne. Plus, the booster is also full of soothing and hydrating goodies to keep skin soft and supple and reduce inflammation.

Available at: Dermstore, Feel UniqueLook Fantastic and Paula’s Choice

Related: The Complete Guide To Retinol

Best For Sensitive Skin: Paula’s Choice Resist 10% Niacinamide Booster ($42.00)

When you have sensitive skin, it’s incredibly hard to find anti-aging skincare products that don’t bother it. This booster is loaded with anti-inflammatory ingredients to soothe irritations, antioxidants to prevent wrinkles, and hyaluronic acid to hydrate skin. But the star here is niacinamide: it reduces wrinkles and dark spots, hydrates skin, soothes inflammation, and even treats acne!

Available at: DermstoreLook Fantastic, Nordstrom and Paula’s Choice.

Related: Niacinamide, The Underdog Of The Antiaging Treatments

Shop The Best Skincare Boosters

The Bottom Line

Skin boosters are those friends you call in your hour of need. Even if you haven’t kept in touch for ages, when you need them they’re always there to lend your skin a helping hand. If your skincare routine could need a boost, give them a call.

Do you use skincare boosters? Share your favourites in the comments below.



Marina (Makeup4all) September 7, 2016 - 12:55 pm

I love the idea of a booster, and I am currently using Clarins boosters, and they do work.

Gio September 18, 2016 - 10:28 am

Marina, it’s a clever concept, isn’t it? I love it that I can give my skin that something extra whenever it needs it.

H September 9, 2016 - 8:44 pm


What’s the difference between a booster and an essence?

Thank you!

Janessa September 12, 2016 - 11:16 pm

Hi H,

I’m not Gio but I think the difference is that the booster is a powder that you add to a moisturizer, toner, serum. An essence already has the active ingredient(s) mixed into a vehicle or base and you just apply that directly so there’s no need to mix!

Gio September 18, 2016 - 10:36 am

Janessa, thanks for always being so helpful. πŸ™‚

Just one thing, not all boosters come in powder form. Some are liquidy too. πŸ™‚

Gio September 18, 2016 - 10:34 am

H, an essence is a standalone product used mainly to add extra hydration to the skin. Skin is more permeable when it’s damp so the extra hydration helps the other skincare products you apply next to better penetrate the skin.

A booster usually only contains the active ingredients and very little else and has a specific purpose: it can hydrate skin, fight wrinkles, reduce dark spots, etc. You can use them alone or mix them with your fave products. Out of all the skincare products out there, they contain the highest concentrations of active ingredients so they should be used only when your skin needs that extra something to deal with whatever problem it is going through.

Janessa September 12, 2016 - 11:14 pm

I use the Philosophy Turbo Booster! I really love it. I mix a little bit (directions say 1/2 to 1 scoop of the tiny spoon included) to my toner and apply it every morning! πŸ˜€

Gio September 18, 2016 - 10:30 am

Janessa, it’s a great and easy way to supercharge your skincare routine, isn’t it?

Aer February 5, 2017 - 10:38 pm

Will The Ordinary Advanced 2% Retinol work as a booster? I love PC but I can’t afford her retinols yet. Would tis be a good substitute?

Gio February 12, 2017 - 6:27 pm

Aer, a booster is a bit different because you can use it as is but can also mix it with other products. The Ordinary serum is a standalone product to be used as is. But, yes it is a good formula and a good way to add retinol to your skincare routine.

audrey March 8, 2017 - 7:45 am

I have been eyeing The Ordinary 2% Advanced Retinoid too. I heard it’s quite gentle, but I’m still a bit afraid to use it on my sensitive skin.

Gio March 10, 2017 - 8:21 pm

Audrey, it is one of the gentlest retinoid serums I’ve tried indeed but I’ve just had a reader say it made her skin peel when she first started using it. Just goes to show that everyone is different. My advice would be to start with a lower dose or to apply it on top of your moisturiser. That would dilute it so you won’t get its full potency. But it will also be less irritating. Always do a patch test first, though!

audrey March 11, 2017 - 10:18 am

When I first started using it, should I use it only 1x/week for at least 4 weeks? I heard starting with 0.025% retinol is best, but still not sure the concensus of starting dose on Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (The Ordinary Advanced Retinoid). And do you think using peptide serum like Matrixyl 3000 is a safer approach for anti-aging rather than using retinoid (esp. for sensitive skin)?

Gio March 12, 2017 - 4:19 pm

Audrey, I think with all retinoids, less is more at the beginning.

Mmm, peptides are definitely gentler than retinoids, but there isn’t as much proof they work. That’s what my advice is to get a serum with retinol/antioxidants AND peptides. If your skin is very sensitive, you can try peptides. Just don’t spend too much on them.

A Golding April 9, 2018 - 6:44 pm

I use Aplha H glycolic acid every other night and 20% vit c (stabilised ) serum every morning straight on skin not mixed with anything. that OK?
Then apply moisturiser and 15 minutes layer I apply a mineral based spf. Dies the vit c dilute the spf or is that just if you mix the 2 together?

Gio April 14, 2018 - 8:22 am

A Golding, mixing anything with sunscreen can dilute the SPF. But layering a vitamin C serum under sunscreen will boost its effectiveness, especially if it also contains vitamin E and ferulic acid.

Dora January 10, 2019 - 4:19 pm

Hi Gio,

Is it ok to mix Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol Booster and 10% Niacinamide Booster together? Will one active cancel the other? What about mixing 15% Vitamin C Booster and Peptide Booster? Is there any chance for hydrolysis to happen?

Gio January 24, 2019 - 5:59 pm

Dora, these boosters are designed to be mixed with serums and moisturisers so I’d stick to that.

Rashmi March 22, 2019 - 12:36 pm

Hi Gio, I’m a newbie. Can I use a 10% niacinamide serum, the ordinary to layer under my sunscreen. Do i have to use it alone or i need to exfoliate my skin on alternate days using a bha to increase its effectiveness. I m just confused of how to include niacinamide, salicylic acid and a retinol into my regime.

Gio March 29, 2019 - 1:01 pm

Rashmi, The Ordinary niacinamide is only for oily skin. If hat’s what you have, yes you can layer it under sunscreen. In the evening, alternate between salicylic acid and retinol after cleansing.


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